Sunday, 26 April 2015


by Johan Inger

I went to see this brand-new production of Carmen by Compañía Nacional de Danza with a mix of excitement and apprehension. The first and the last time I’ve seen Carmen on stage was almost 30 years ago. It was the Antonio Gades version, and it’s quite an act to follow. I am glad to say that the new Carmen is so radically different that there is no point in comparing these two productions whatsoever. (If I hesitate to call them “ballets”, it is because I can’t stand ballet.)

Directed and choreographed by a Swede and with lead dancers hailing from Iceland, Belgium and Australia, Carmen strikes you as a story that could happen anywhere in the world. (The toreador is 100% Spanish though.) The choreography is stunning and quite unlike anything I’ve seen before. The stage design features nine triangular prisms, which are moving to create different places and moods. Dark (it’s getting even darker in the second act) and violent, it’s not an easy viewing but well worth the effort. Catch it if you can!

It was the first time I’ve been to Palacio de Festivales de Cantabria and I really liked the venue. From my cheapest seat, almost on the very top, I could see the scene well and without any obstructions.


Ballet in two acts
    Choreography and direction: Johan Inger
    Assistant choreographer: Urtzi Aranburu
    Music: Rodion Shchedrin, Georges Bizet
    Additional original music: Marc Álvarez
    Dramaturgy: Gregor Acuña-Pohl
    Scenographer: Curt Allen Wilmer
    Assistant Scenographer: Isabel Ferrández Barrios
    Lighting designer: Tom Visser
    Costumes: David Delfín


    Carmen, Emilia Gisladöttir
    Don José, Daan Vervoort
    Child, Jessica Lyall
    Isaac Montllor, Jessica Lyall
    Zuñiga, Francisco Lorenzo

    Women: Mar Aguiló, Aída Badía, Elisabet Biosca, Kayoko Everhart, Sara Fernández, Agnés López, Allie Papazian
    Men: Antonio de Rosa, Jacopo Giarda, Erez Ilan, Toby William Mallitt, Aleix Mañé, Mattia Russo

Thursday, 23 April 2015

A Thousand Words

a film by Ted Chung

Today there was a play in my school presented by the primaria children. It consisted of short tales/fables. One of them was about Pandora’s box (originally, as I just have learned, it was a jar, but thanks to Erasmus of Rotterdam we are stuck with the box). Of course, the moral of the story is that nosiness is bad. That’s what I was taught in school too. But I never really believed it.

So I’d like to present a story that argues otherwise. A few weeks ago, I used the Film English lesson plan built around a short film called On Time. My students liked it a lot. We spent some time discussing it and predicting what could happen next.

Then I got intrigued and looked up other films of Ted Chung: Mike’s and A Thousand Words. I think the latter is the best film of the three. No words, no contact. Yet. Chung prefers to leave a lot unsaid.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Kenneth Rowntree (1915—1997): A Centenary Exhibition

After living for a while here, there and yonder, you start to regard these places as your own. At least I do. I have acquired a habit of calling any of them “our”, in plural. (With all its richness, English language has no direct equivalent of certain basic phrases of, say, Russian. Take a simple expression «а у нас». No, you can’t translate it as “we have”. So I don’t really know how to say «а у нас на Фуэртевентуре» or «а у нас в Сантандере» in English.)

So today I went for a walk down memory lane: from Littlebury to Audley End House to Saffron Walden. In Saffron Walden I had a nice cup of tea in a brand-new café Bicicletta, where I walked in at 15:55, five minutes until closing time. After that, I found myself in Bridge End Gardens, precariously close to the house where we lived for eight years. And then I noticed that the Fry Art Gallery was open. In fact, today is the first day it’s open this year. Inside, they have the Fry Art Gallery 30th Anniversary Exhibition “from Eric Ravilious to Grayson Perry” (I remember most paintings there rather well) and a Centenary Exhibition of Kenneth Rowntree (until 12th July). After a chat with curators (they provided me with catalogues and told me everything that I may possibly want to know about the opening times), I stayed there for a goodish while before heading back to Littlebury.

London has the National Gallery and stuff, I said to myself, and Cambridge has the Fitzwilliam Museum. А у нас в Сафрон-Уолдене — the Fry Art Gallery.

The Cerne Abbas Giant, Dorset

Evening Bather, Essex

Exeter College Barge, Oxford

Falling Rain with Raised Flag

Homage to Verlaine (Chanson d’Autome)


Putney Bridge Night Scene

Putney Garden

Sky, Sea, North, Umber

The Station Willows, Clare, Suffolk

Toy Boat at Selsey

Water Butt

Winter Garden, Acomb

Friday, 3 April 2015

Peder Balke @ The National Gallery

Yesterday, I went to London to renew my passport. All papers handed in, I had four hours to kill before I could collect it. The weather was good, so I embarked on a walk: from Victoria to Buckingham Palace through St James's Park to Trafalgar Square — all these super-touristy places which, surprisingly, turned out to be reasonably crowd-free. And then I surprised myself by entering The National Gallery.

Here I made a discovery. As it happens, these are the last days of the Peder Balke exhibition (until 12 April 2015). I never heard of him, although the name rang a bell. Oh right: Wikipedia says he is a great-great-grandfather of Norwegian jazzmen Jon Balke and Erik Balke. Not quite incidentally: I think some of Peder Balke paintings, such as Northern Lights shown below, wouldn’t be out of place as ECM cover art.

Northern Lights over Coastal Landscape

Moonlit View of Stockholm


The Mountain Range ‘Trolltindene’

The Tempest

In 1832, Peder Balke travelled along the Norwegian coast as far as Nordkapp. Although it was his only journey there, the scenery of Nordkapp continued to inspire him till the end of his life.


I have to thank Her Majesty’s Passport Office for this pleasant discovery.